The murder was incredibly tragic, especially because, by all accounts, Sharps was a young, ambitious and friendly child, who was shot in cold-blood for no reason whatsoever. Sharps's best friend De'Onte Bilbro was severely injured during the shooting.
Today, testimony began in the trial of Kwan Kearney, the individual accused of killing Sharps. Homicidewatch.org, a blog that helps bring desperately needed attention to DC murder victims, has published a report of the first-day of the trial, which includes some chilling testimony by Larnell Allen. Allen is a second defendant who has accepted a plea agreement:
“As soon as [Kearney] pulls the gun he fires,” Allen said of the run-in between Sharps, Bilbro, Kearney, a 14-year-old, and himself. “I withdrew my gun from my hip and I fired. It’s like backing him up. One fires, we all fire.” (boldface added)
That shooting killed 17-year-old Sharps and seriously wounded then-18-year-old Bilbro. Families of the two young men were in court Tuesday, both in the audience and on the witness stand. Bilbro, too, took the witness stand, describing for jurors how he and his best friend were walking home from a nearby gas station, when three guys walked towards them on the sidewalk.
“I looked to see who I was walking past and the tallest one said ‘Whatchya reaching for?’” Bilbro remembered. “Joe said, ‘We ain’t reaching for nothing.”
That’s when the shots rang out, Bilbro said, he fell to the ground injured. His left leg lay up against his stomach; he later learned that his femur had been shattered. Still, he got up and ran across the street thinking that he could go get help. But once across the street, his leg crumpled under him and he fell, again.
He called his mom on his cell phone.
"Mom,” Dorothea Bilbro told the jury her son said when she picked up the phone. “I’ve been shot. Around the corner.”
She jumped in her car and drove around the corner. “I saw Joe and I saw De’Onte,” she remembered. She checked on her son, then ran to his best friend.
“This is Ma Bilbro,” she said she told Sharps. “You’re going to be alright.”Sharps died moments later.
This case involves some strange twists that indicate the level of violence among youth who live in concentrated poverty within the District of Columbia. Kwan Kearney was arrested for killing another youth prior to his arrest for killing Sharps. His brother, Eric Kearney was slated to testify for the defense in the other case. Last month, however, Eric Kearney was murdered.
Prosecutors believe that Kearney was murdered because he revealed that another individual, who is currently incarcerated, was going to testify for the prosecution. A friend of that individual allegedly killed Eric in order to silence him from broadcasting information about the witness. The death of Eric Kearney delayed Kwan Kearney's trial for the death of Joseph Sharps.